Thirty-nine strains of rapidly growing mycobacteria were examined for the production of mycobactins (lipid-soluble, iron-binding compounds) when grown under conditions of iron-limitation on solidified medium. Different growth conditions had little effect on the structure of individual mycobactins, indicating them to be strongly conserved molecules showing intra-species consistency and thus suitable for use as chemotaxonomic characters of high discriminatory power. Strains of subsp. and formed mycobactins which were readily isolated and characterized by a combination of thin-layer and high-performance liquid chromatography. All strains of and ‘’ failed to produce a mycobactin; some strains of and were similarly negative. Mycobacteria of the complex ( and ‘’) formed distinctive mycobactins, as did those in the complex ( and ). The mycobactin from ‘’ was different from those of the related species , for which four distinct mycobactin patterns were recorded. For routine examination of mycobactins in a diagnostic laboratory with limited resources, thin-layer chromatography used alone offers a simple but adequate means of characterization and final identification of the producing mycobacterium. High-performance liquid chromatography is only needed in those few instances where a high degree of discrimination is required.


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